by Mike McNamee Published 01/02/2014
On 29 November 2013 Ilford Imaging Switzerland announced another round of liquidity issues and filed for insolvency at the courts in Friboug . This followed the pulling out of one of the key investors. The future therefore looks grim for all concerned and it is sad to see the demise of yet another big name from the past. This demise is also a little surprising as the company had previously boasted about coating 80% of the market's papers. Had that been the case we might have expected a great outcry about security of supply. Ilford Imaging Switzerland is owned by the Ojii Paper company of Japan and the Swiss factory at Marly made the Ilford range of papers which were reviewed in Professional Imagemaker in June 2013. The range also included the highly regarded Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, baryta media.
As one door closes another opens. PermaJet were off the mark within a couple of days with a tweak to an existing product to make a near perfect mimic of the popular Ilford Smooth Pearl. Testing (including our own) shows the product to be extremely similar, so close in fact that you can use either an old Ilford workflow or a new one, with no change in the print outcome. As you will see as you read on, we actually found the new PermaJet Smooth Pearl 280 to be a significant improvement on the Ilford Smooth Pearl while retaining all the external similarities and workflows.
The difference in OBA activity shows in both the UV booth and in the spectral data.
Visually (in normal daylight) the two surfaces are indistinguishable. The surface finish is a very subtle satin pearl and is very attractive as a 'photographic' finish, suitable for exhibition, album or print work. The surface is very tough as it has a supercoating; dragging a fingernail across the print produced a barely perceptible mark. The papers are of similar weight, 290gsm for the Ilford and 280gsm for the PermaJet. The thickness reflects this difference. The PermaJet is very slightly stiffer under the (highly scientific!) test of dangling both papers over the desk edge to see which deflected the most.
It was immediately obvious when the test samples were viewed in the UV booth that there are differences in the coating. The Ilford product had a higher OBA activity and was easily identified. This did not translate to an easily detectable difference when viewing prints in daylight.
The difference in the UV booth is backed up by the spectral data and the 'whiteness' measurements. The lift at 440nm was 4% higher for the Ilford media and this is confirmed by the Fluorescence values of 2.4 for PermaJet and 4.3 for the Ilford media. Despite this, the Brightness of the PermaJet media is higher, 96% playing off 93.7%. The Lab coordinates of the media show the Ilford to be cooler by about 1 Lab unit. Overall then the surfaces of the paper are very similar and for all practical purposes may be considered identical.
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